Social VR in Higher Education: A Survey and a Presentation (Be Careful What You Wish For!)

Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

Be very careful what you wish for, people.

I have been toiling away on this blog for four years now, in (relative) obscurity, focusing from time to time on academic research into various aspects of social VR, and hoping and dreaming of a day when it becomes more mainstream technology in universities and colleges. I even began a research project myself, which I unfortunately had to suspend due to being wildly out-of-scale (librarians at the University of Manitoba are members of the faculty union, and have an opportunity to pursue research projects).

Well, guess what? I have been asked to give a half-hour presentation to my university’s senate committee on academic computing, on the applications of social VR to higher education. It’s to be early September, so I have a couple of months to research and prepare my slide deck.

And I am terrified!

Why? Because this is an important, high-level university committee, and I have never given a presentation to these kinds of people before. Sure, I have given all kinds of presentations to undergraduate and graduate students at my university, and of course, I have slipped on a VR headset and given presentations in places like ENGAGE and AltspaceVR. In fact, it was my presentation on social VR for the Students in VR group in AltspaceVR earlier this year that my director of libraries saw, when she recommended me to give this presentation!

So I was feeling major impostor syndrome, people. Until I gave my head a shake and told myself: Ryan, you’ve got this. You’ve been passionately blogging about this for four years now. If anybody can talk about social VR, it’s you!

So, my first step was to send out a message to all the social VR Discord servers I belong to:

Hey everybody! I have been asked to give a half-hour presentation at my university about the uses of social VR in higher education (colleges, universities, etc.). I would be interested in learning more about specific university/college partnerships and projects on social VR platforms, if you know of any could you please tell me about them? Thank you!

And I have been collating responses for the past 24 hours! I want to thank everybody who has responded to me so far. I hope to include many of the projects I hear about in my presentation, as examples of how higher education is using social VR platforms for teaching and research. (I will also blog about many of the projects I find, here on my blog.)

So, if you are aware of any specific university and college projects involving social virtual reality (either building a platform from scratch or using an existing social VR platform like NeosVR, ENGAGE, etc.), I would love to hear about them!

Please send me a message via my Contact Me page, or leave a comment here on this blogpost, thanks!